Each October we put away our fly rods and pick up the shotguns to go bird hunting. This year, we took a leaf peeping trip to New Hampshire with our grandchildren, and saved the bird hunt for the second week of October with hopes of there being less hunters in the woods. Since bear season was a bust, we really wanted to get some partridge for our freezer.
The past three years, we’ve camped at Lily Bay State Park for $10 per night. Not bad for $30 and with that fee we get warm showers and a private campsite, but the bird hunting hasn’t been outstanding so we thought perhaps we’d take the plunge and “go North” to Bird Utopia.
Each year, our oldest son and son-in-law go on an all-boy excursion with a bunch of their friends to Ashland, a.k.a. Bird Utopia in the North Maine Woods. That’s northern Maine to us…way north; about four plus hours north to be exact. And each year they come home boasting about the number of birds they get, and that they get their limits every day. We get bird envy every time.
To make this more believable, we camped in the North Maine Woods in 2012 for Zack’s moose hunt. Each morning, we watched four grouse strut around in the campsite while we just watched because we were there for the September moose hunt and bird season hadn’t begun yet.
With high hopes of having a banner three day weekend, we packed up the camper, guns, and food and headed north to Bird Utopia. The forecast for Columbus Day weekend was supposed to be textbook gorgeously sunny with a fall chill, but with a passing overnight shower in the “far north”. I even brought a rifle “just in case” we saw a bear.
We arrived in the North Maine Woods just in time for the rain…and the mud. We had to four-wheel drive into the gate because a recent road repair had compromised the firmness and we literally didn’t know if we’d get our camper through the section of road without ripping off something. After paying $153.00 at the gate for our three days of camping and daily use fees, we set up in the rain. It poured. It was cold and damp. Luckily the heater ran all night. We camped in Russell Stream Crossing off of the Realty Road. You can find it on Google Earth. A beauty of a site with the Russell Stream running behind it. We even had a new privy to use.
The following morning it was cold enough that ice formed in the puddles. We got up before sunrise, made coffee, packed the truck and headed out for a day of hunting on muddy gross roads. We saw some beautiful foliage, but hardly any wildlife besides an owl. We rode for hours and saw nothing for partridge. I was beginning to think I couldn’t spot one. We parked the truck and walked in poplar and birch stands with no luck. John and I score some really cool mushrooms. I am convinced they are edible. They look like giant white mushrooms we buy in the store…and they smell like mushrooms. I can’t wait to share my find! Finding such unique mushrooms were my saving grace to not seeing any birds. I figured if I can spot mushrooms, then I certainly can see a bird.